What are Yokai – and the most famous anime that feature them

Yōkai are a staple of Japanese culture. Here’s what these mystical beings are, as well as some places in the anime world where they can be seen.

Once in a while, one will come across an anime with strange creatures that have a spiritual nature. These Yokay (妖怪, “strange apparitions”) appear throughout Japanese folklore. Many anime fans are familiar with terms such as Kyūbi, kitsuneand Tengu; these creatures are all referred to as youkai. There are many other cases of youkai throughout the anime.

It is important to remember that youkai come in all shapes and sizes. While many of them are ghosts or at least spiritual in nature, they represent myths and rumors in general to the Japanese. As such, they can be anything from a woman with her mouth open (Kuchisakewe have not) to the giant sea monsters (Umibozu). In this sense, even onisalthough they are called demons or ogres in English, are qualified as youkai. It is better to think of them as characters from fairy tales. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the greatest anime that feature them.


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One of the best known youkai anime ago GeGeGe no Kitaro. It follows the eponymous Kitarō as he befriends and battles new youkai regularly. Dating back to the 1960s, Kitaro could be called the ancestor of modern supernatural anime. He is certainly responsible for popularizing youkai for modern anime audiences. However, due to its long history, it may not be the best place to start for those with only a passing interest in youkai.

A better place to start would be YOkai Watch. The anime has its main characters interacting, fighting and befriending various youkai. This series plays a lot with the idea that youkai are responsible for unexplained phenomena. It’s like pokemon, but with youkai.


Speaking of pokemon, this franchise also features some yōkai-like monsters, and it’s not just Ghost-types either. Naturally, Ninetails is based on the popular Kyubi. Other fox-like Pokémon like the Zoroark lineage, Fennekin lineage, and Vulpix may be based on the kitsune. Mawile is based on the futakuchi onna. Golduck and Lombre are based on Kappa. Froslass is based on the Yuki-onna. The list is lengthened increasingly. For series like these where youkai would not logically exist but still be a desirable plot device, such substitutions become necessary.

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It turns out that the recent Wano arc of A play includes a number of youkairesembling entities, especially during the Raid on Onigashima. Several of the Big Mom Homies made on the island are based on tsukumogamiobjects possessed by spirits that are often classified as youkai; these included Bakezōri (Animated zōri sandals), Chochinobake (animated lanterns), and Kasa obake (animated umbrellas). Black Maria by Tobi Roppo is based on a mix between a Jorōgumo and one tsuchigumotwo types of spiders youkai; his subordinates in the Pleasure Hall are also based on various youkai, including an rokurokubia Aliasand one Nure Onna. It is also possible that Kaidō and Yamato are onis, although details on this front are still hazy; at the very least they are obviously based to onis. This dense collection of youkai references is probably the result of Wano’s inspiration from Japan.


A common trend in anime featuring youkai is to exorcise them, which makes them perfect for the battle shōnen genre. Thus, many series of Shōnen Jump highlight characters fighting youkai, evil spirits, Mononoke, demons, or whatever they want to call them. popular supernatural anime under the Shōnen Jump banner include Jujutsu Kaisen, Yū Yū Hakusho, Hell Teacher Nūbēand Noura: Rise of the Yōkai clan. Some lesser-known ongoing series include Ayakashi Triangle, Ayashimonand Doron Doron. These types of series often represent youkai as malevolent beings who terrorize ordinary people; it is the duty of the main characters to stop these evil spirits and keep the peace.


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As youkai, anime featuring them can come in all shapes and sizes. Other popular series that highlight these strange creatures include Inuyasha, xxxHolic, Natsume’s Friends Book, ghost stories, Noragami, and Sewayaki Kitsune no Senko-san. We could watch some or all of these series and make a real Hyakki Yagyō (百鬼夜行, “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons”) of their party.

The folk nature of yokay is what makes them so appealing. They can be anything from gruesome monsters to playful sprites. They can be humanoid or bestial. Some of them can even be cute and adorable. It’s about who’s telling the story, it’s what makes youkai perfect for anime.

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